OSPREY, FL (March 28, 2023) Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast recently received a $59,000 grant from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to help create a buffer of managed lands on Conservation Foundation’s Upper Myakka Preserve, which borders Myakka River State Park (MRSP). This 60-acre, river-front property protects over a mile of the Myakka River directly upstream of MRSP, and serves as a critical gateway between the sensitive ecosystems of the park and about 30 miles of unprotected river upstream.
Conservation Foundation manages Upper Myakka Preserve collaboratively with the FWC, MRSP, and the Wild and Scenic River Protection Program in order to improve wetland habitats across boundaries and throughout the Myakka River corridor. Funds from the FWC grant support the Foundation’s initiative to eradicate invasive plant species – which smother native marsh wildflowers and block wildlife from foraging and nesting – before they enter the park.
An excellent example of how this buffer of land is already protecting MRSP comes from the recent discovery of an exotic plant called aquatic soda apple (Solanum tampicense), which was previously unseen in Sarasota or Manatee Counties. Property owners may be familiar with its close relative tropical soda apple, which invades pastures. Aquatic soda apple is similarly covered in thorns and is also highly invasive, however it is only found in wetlands, where it quickly establishes dense brambles exceeding six feet tall and taking over miles of shoreline and acres of wetlands. Conservation Foundation’s discovery and subsequent notification to MRSP, the Myakka Wild and Scenic River Protection Program, Sarasota and Manatee Counties, FWC, adjacent private landowners, and other partners, led to the additional discovery of aquatic soda apple growing within MRSP. Thanks to this early detection, treatment has already begun and coordinated eradication efforts are underway.
“Plants don’t respect property boundaries,” says Lee Amos, Conservation Foundation biologist. “It’s critical for neighbors to work together to keep weeds under control for the benefit of people, wildlife, and livestock. It’s a community effort, and we are grateful to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for their support.”
In addition to the removal of invasive plant species, Conservation Foundation is working to restore and enhance the river shoreline and surrounding floodplain forests by planting thousands of native trees and wildflowers. These plantings support wildlife, including numerous animals listed as species of greatest conservation need, by providing foraging habitat within Upper Myakka Preserve and safeguarding the significant foraging habitat within MRSP. To learn more about volunteer planting opportunities, visit conservationfoundation.com/myakkarestoration.
Beyond Upper Myakka Preserve, the upper half of the Myakka River remains largely unprotected and, therefore, at risk. Conservation Foundation continues to work with the community to preserve these working landscapes and the rural heritage of the Myakka region, while at the same time safeguarding critical habitat and connecting protected lands across Southwest Florida.
If you want to learn more about options for your land, including funding resources available, please contact Director of Land Protection, Debi Osborne, by calling 941.918.2100 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Conservation Foundation
Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast protects land and water in Southwest Florida for the benefit of people and nature. Working with landowners, businesses, and government, Conservation Foundation saves land forever, protecting those special places that make this region extraordinary. A nationally accredited land trust, Conservation Foundation purchases natural areas, holds voluntary land protection agreements, and educates for responsible land and water stewardship in Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte, Lee, and Collier Counties. Learn more and join in their mission at conservationfoundation.com.